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Palco boys get a little redemption in win

By KLINT SPILLER

kspiller@dailynews.net

PALCO -- Palco High School boys' basketball coach Chris Drees said Friday was "redemption time."

The Roosters were squashed 47-20 on Jan. 12 by Bird City-Cheylin in the Western Kansas Liberty League tournament championship, and Cheylin's 6-foot-9 senior center Joshua Keltz was huge in that game, posting 14 points, 12 rebounds and nine blocks.

Friday's game at Palco was a completely different story, as the Roosters won 61-54.

"We tried to do all the things we didn't do the first time we played them," Drees said. "We didn't feel like the first time we played them that we even gave them a game."

Palco ran a near-perfect game plan against Cheylin (9-3), running a delay offense to force the Cougars to switch from their 2-3 zone defense to a man-to-man defense.

Then the Roosters (8-4), using a speedy lineup, lured Keltz to the perimeter and attacked the basket over and over with the 6-foot-9 center out of the way.

"We were just trying to get him away from the basket," Drees said. "Not only can he hurt you with his blocks, he can also hurt you on the boards. That's where he killed us last time."

Four Palco players reached double figures Friday.

Senior Chase Newell scored 16, senior Mike Knipp added 13, senior Alex Benoit had 12 and sophomore Brent Gehring posted 10. Gehring also grabbed 10 rebounds.

"That's what we try to pride ourselves on," Drees said. "... All my guys are scoring are within six or seven points of each other in our season average, and that's the way we want it."

Cheylin lost despite a tremendous performance from senior guard Kenan Reeh.

Reeh scored a career-high 27 points on 10-of-16 shooting and grabbed nine rebounds, but it was all for naught.

"It's frustrating," Reeh said. "Anytime you have a close game and you're giving it everything you got until the last second, it's disappointing when you don't come out with a big victory. Hopefully, we can take this loss and learn what we can do better."

Cheylin junior guard Ty Carmichael added 14 points and eight rebounds, and Keltz, who averages near a triple-double, was contained to just four points, nine rebounds and one block.

"They are a good team any way you look at it," said Cheylin head coach Anthony Blair. "... They made adjustments, and we weren't ready for them."

Palco led for much of the game. The Roosters grabbed their first lead with 5 minutes, 21 seconds left in the first quarter and didn't give it up until the third quarter. Then Palco got it back in the fourth quarter and outscored Cheylin 14-8 down the stretch to hold off the Cougars.

As a team, Palco's offense executed well, making 25 of 47. Cheylin made 20 of 55.

"I think we could have played a lot better defense tonight," Reeh said. "We let them drive a lot on us, and they were making shots. When you are in a close game, that counts a lot."